For your maiden voyage through the Val di Bisenzio, use Vernio as a starting point. The small town is the birthplace of the Zuccherini di Vernio, the first thing to tackle on your mouthwatering mission.
In layperson’s terms, Zuccherini are a more decadent, homemade version of a donut, with boring, processed glaze swapped out for the sugary quality of a beignet—but crunchier and as a coating, not a dusting. Oven-prepared, Zuccherini are particularly prevalent around the holiday season, in homes, bakeries and at myriad Christmas markets. These splurge-worthy snacks are far from the cucina povera tradition so common to Tuscany: due to the substantial amount of (expensive) sugar required, they’ve historically been viewed as an indulgence, the type of sweet you’d see served at wedding reception, baptism or other milestone event. Pull out all the stops and pair them with coffee or Tuscan dessert wine Vin Santo for dipping.
Polenta is another snack with strong ties to the area: usually held at the beginning of March, the Festa della Pulendina (also called the Festa della Polenta) has been running for over 400 years and commemorates a 1512 event, when the Bisenzio Valley faced famine, exacerbated by the invasion of Spanish troops at war with Florence. The Bardi nobles distributed free chestnut polenta, herring and dried codfish, which ended up saving much of the Vernio population. The festival features costumed parades, historical re-enactments and food stands, but save room for polenta whether you’re in town for the festival or not.
A niche event on Italian Father’s Day (which always lands on the Feast Day of Saint Joseph, March 19) is worth noting: the Fiera del Bestiame, or livestock festival, features food stands and traditional products as well as a livestock show, plus photography exhibitions and conferences focused on agricultural themes.